There wasn't any doubt No. 1 Kentucky was vastly superior to rebuilding South Florida, and that was clear early and often as the Wildcats ran away with an 84-63 win over the Bulls to improve to 6-0.
It was a game UK led 42-21 at halftime and by as many as 30 in the second half. It was also a game which Tyler Ulis left with an elbow injury that doesn't look serious, but was scary nonetheless.
Here are our biggest takeaways from the game.
Any time a key player is injured, especially this early in the season, that immediately becomes the biggest story. That's the case with point guard Tyler Ulis, who left the first half with a scary elbow injury that turned out to be a hyperextension. While painful and potentially enough to sideline a player for multiple weeks, Kentucky is still breathing a sigh of relief that this wasn't more serious.
The injury happened as Ulis' arm got caught underneath South Florida’s Angel Nunez as Nunez lunged for a loose ball, and the manner in which the arm bent made it appear it could have been a break had the arm gotten caught just a hair more under Nunez's arm.
I would 'guess' that Kentucky holds Ulis out Monday vs. Illinois State and possibly next Thursday at UCLA. Depending on the severity of the extension, Ulis could be back in a week or two, so we'll keep you posted on a possible recovery timetable.
Threes Start Falling
Kentucky has looked mighty impressive at times in a lot of areas, but three-point shooting has not been one of them. In their most recent win over BU, UK hit just 3-of-15 three-point tries, including a 1-of-5 night by Ulis.
For the season, Ulis had hit just 21.1-percent (4-of-19) beyond the arc after hitting 42.9 percent last season, but he connected on his only two attempts in this one before exiting with his injury.
As a team, the Wildcats had made only 26-percent of their three-pointers this season, but they hit 6-of-13 against South Florida, including four of their first six attempts. That was why the Cats were able to dominate this game and bury the Bulls quickly, despite Ulis' injury.
When this team is hitting three-pointers, they're going to be close to unstoppable.
This was easily Charles Matthews' biggest game this season as he's beginning to lock himself into the rotation. In addition to being a thorn on defense and an energy guy, he's now gaining the confidence to make his own offense instead of scoring off rebounds and lobs:
Matthews finished the game with a career-high 11 points after scoring just combined points in his first five games. With Alex Poythress being the sixth man, Matthews is beginning to lock himself into that seventh man spot, which is about the number of players Cal typically plays as the season wears on.
Matthews is going to be a key factor for this team and continue to get significant minutes, every bit of which he's earning.
We're finally seeing Skal Labissiere to consistently be a force in a paint and dominate games. After notching 16 points, seven boards and three blocks vs. Wright State, Skal followed that up with 17 points, three blocks and four boards vs. USF. He continued to be a menace on defense and make life hard for any Bulls player in the paint.
We all knew his offense was good, but his defense is starting to catch up as this is becoming a scary-good defensive team.
The 'Cats have been great at pressuring ball-handlers and forcing turnovers early on this season, and that continued vs. USF. Five first-half steals and eight turnovers forced led to 14 points for the 'Cats as they built a 42-31 lead and put this game out of reach early. They finished with nine steals and forced 14 turnovers by the Bulls en route to a big win.
Kentucky came into this game ranked 59th in the nation in steals per possession (10.8%) out of 351 teams. For perspective, none of Calipari's UK teams have even finished a season in the top 100 in this category. As good as some of his players have been at taking the ball away, he's never had a team this good at doing so, and he's doing a good job of utilizing that strength this year.